Luther’s Dilemma

James versus Paul

James versus Paul

Q. Did Luther exclude James from the Bible? Why?

A. Luther considered certain books, namely Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation, part of the so-called Antilegomena (disputed books), to be of lower value, but he did not exclude them from the Bible. He just placed them at the end of the NT apart from the other books. His reasons were that James flatly contradicted Paul, and the epistle was not Christ-centered enough.

Rom 3:28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.
• Gal 2:16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
• Jas 2:14, 17, 20, 24, 26 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? … In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Actually the two are complementary, like two sides of a coin, not contradictory. A person is justified by faith, not by the works of the law. But that faith is always manifested by deeds, without which the faith is not genuine, not a saving faith. The faith that saves is always accompanied by action, which proves that it is a living and not dead faith.

Secondly, Luther believed that the book of James did not teach enough about the Lord. His name appeared only twice in the letter (James 1:1, 2:1), which is more focused on faith in God and how that should be lived out. Therefore to him it was not apostolic, as the primary task of the apostles was to bear witness to Christ. But James was addressing the twelve tribes scattered among the nations, teaching them about trials. temptations, and practical Christian living. The emphasis was not on the life and works of the Lord, nor on developing a Christology, so Luther’s opinion is rather one-sided.

My concern is that we should follow the whole counsel of God and not push one aspect at the expense of another. Hold a balanced view and it will save you from a lot of errors.

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